Writing

A Letter To My Journal

 

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Dear Journal,

A lot has transpired since our last visit. I’ve purchased some new goodies to record my thoughts in, but I just didn’t feel right leaving you behind.

Continue reading “A Letter To My Journal”

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Writing

Start Writing Now

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If I could offer one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, it would be to start writing now.

You can read every style manual, how-to-article, and book on the craft, but it won’t replace the physical task of putting pen to paper.  Whether your aim is to create a popular blog or write a bestselling novel, you must sit down and start somewhere.

Continue reading “Start Writing Now”

Writing

Why I Enjoy Writing in the Morning

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There is something magical about writing early in the morning. It’s the time of day when my mind is the least cluttered. All I need is a warm cup of coffee and my journal book and I’m good.

I can’t promise that what I write during this time will even make sense. My number one priority is to get something down on paper. Grammar and sentence structure are the least of my concerns.

I encourage you to try this if you’re a new writer looking to establish a daily routine. Even if just writing for five minutes, you will be amazed at how easily your thoughts flow in the morning hours.

Writing

Reading Is Key to Becoming a Better Writer

Today I’d like to write about a topic that’s dear to my heart: reading.

In a perfect world, I’d spend every evening curled up with a good book. The reality is that I rarely have enough time to read for leisure.

Well that changed on yesterday.

While riding out of town with my wife I was finally able to catch up on Great American Short Stories: From Hawthorne to Hemingway, an anthology of works from some of the most distinguished writers in the American short story tradition. I purchased this book several weeks ago, but had done little with it. It was refreshing to flip through its pages while taking in the cool breeze from the window I had rolled down.

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I’ve always been fascinated with reading. I’m the type of person who finds it impossible to leave out of a bookstore without something in my hands. Even in college, I was more comfortable staying in the dorm reading than going out to party with friends.

My goal is to incorporate more reading into my daily schedule. This doesn’t mean reading the newspaper or information relating to my job. I’m talking about reading for the fun of it.

Not only is reading exciting, but it’s a necessity for becoming a good writer. When I come across a particularly strong phrase in a book or article, I’ll draw a circle around it so that I can refer to it later. These passages serve as motivation for the level of writing I’d like to attain someday.

If you wish to become a better writer, it’s best to pick up a good book.

Writing

Write For an Audience of One

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In some form or fashion, each of the books pictured above have assisted me on my writing journey. However, as good as they are, none of them can adequately prepare me for task of putting pen to paper.

The sheer volume of style manuals and how-to-books on the market can be daunting, especially for new writers. Sometimes it’s best to attack the blank page with little to no regard for public consumption.

Instead of conforming your writing to another’s standards make your readers conform to yours.

Writing

It’s All in the Details

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This is the kind of Saturday I enjoy. The weather is nice and I don’t have too many items on the agenda. I can lounge around and still get some writing done.

When thinking of what to write today my mind wandered back to two incidents from work.

The most recent occurred yesterday when a lady came by my office to drop off some paperwork. The first thing I noticed is that she had on a dress identical to another coworker. It was a black t-shirt style dress with white horizontal stripes. It looked as if she literally picked the outfit out of the other woman’s closet. I was so taken aback that I found myself staring at her dress for most of our conversation. I later brought up my observation which she found quite funny.

Earlier this week I had another female coworker stop by. This one has a peculiar habit of dancing to pass the time. She broke out in a ballerina-style dance as she waited on me to finish a call. It’s honestly the strangest, and cutest, thing I’ve seen at my job. We both busted out in laughter when I noticed what she was doing.

(Author’s Note: One of the most important things I’ve learned about working with women is that it’s always good to keep them laughing.)

I thought to myself how is it that I always pay such an inordinate amount of attention to these kind of things. More so at my job than any other place, I notice nearly every detail of my coworkers’ articles of clothing, past conversations, and unique individual quirks. Even more interesting is that I work mostly around women. It seems like there is something new to learn about them on a daily basis.

I blame it on the writer in me. As a writer, I feel that it’s my duty to observe every detail about those around me. I catch things about other’s behavior that they may not even realize about themselves. It’s kind of cool.

Consequently, I like for my writing to be packed with as much detail as possible.

I’m ready to see what notes my mental rolodex will record as I go about today’s activities.

Inspiration

Consistency is Key

One of my biggest challenges as a blogger is my lack of consistency. It’s what comes to mind whenever I think of why my blog isn’t as successful as it should be. There are periods when I feel like a writing machine and periods when I rarely write at all.

Let’s look at the following table which shows the number of posts I published per year, along with the corresponding amount of views, since I started this blog in 2011.

Year Posts Published Views
2011 41 497
2012 76 19,199
2013 43 13,800
2014 31 14,268
2015 28 9,816
2016 46 7,882

We can see that 2012 was the high watermark with 2013 and 2014 following next in line. 2015 is interesting since it had the lowest number of posts, yet the number of views was still up from what I reached in 2016. 2014 had the second least amount of posts, but the second highest number of views. 2011 is noteworthy because I started this blog in September of that year. I was writing like a man possessed, although the quality of my work wasn’t close to what it is today.

Just imagine if I had maintained the same level of productivity I displayed in 2012. It’s very possible that I would have come close to hitting 100,000 views by now.

I try not to get too caught up in the numbers because the real measure of my blog’s success is how I feel about everything I write and the feedback I receive from my readers. On the other hand, it’s nice to keep track of my measurable progress.

One of the most amazing periods of growth in my blog, and in my writing life, occurred during the summer 2015 when I posted daily from June 28-July 7. To this day it remains the longest stretch of uninterrupted blogging I’ve ever done. Not only did I develop into an all-around better writer, but I gained many new followers during this period. After all this success, guess what I did?

I went cold turkey and didn’t write again until exactly one month later. Why would I stop after going on such a roll?

I stopped because I had a hard time feeling like I could live up to the pressure I imposed on myself.  I thought that I couldn’t write something that lived up to my readers’ expectations of what they had come to expect from me.

2016 was my worst year of blogging. Not only did I go months without posting anything, but the lag in writing made it that much more difficult for me to produce quality content when I was ready to resume. There were days when I felt like a zombie heading to the keyboard.

Just like laziness, a lack of consistency is a surefire way to halt your goals. We all have what may appear to be valid reasons for not maintaining consistency in certain areas we’re looking to grow in.

In some ways, giving up on your goals after you start gaining traction is worse than not pursuing them at all. You’ve already proven you have what it takes, so why stop?

Just keep going.

Inspiration, Writing

Don’t Let Laziness Stop You in 2017

2017 is here and I’m officially making a dent into the new year by writing this very post. What’s so special about this, you might ask.

The answer is that I woke up at 5:03 am to write it.

This may not sound like anything unusual, but I consider it be a breakthrough in my growth as a writer.

I tend to wake up a good two hours early on some mornings. When this happens I normally go straight to my phone to browse social media before forcing myself back to sleep until the alarm rings. Instead of rolling back under the covers I decided to get up and write.

I looked laziness right in the face and didn’t allow it deprive me of my valuable writing time.

Don’t let laziness hold you back from reaching your true potential in whatever goals you decide to pursue this year.

Writing

Why Brevity Is a Writer’s Friend

One of the biggest changes to occur in my writing this year was my switch from writing exceedingly lengthy posts to considerably shorter ones.

During my first couple of years of blogging I felt a need to consistently write upwards of 500 words per post. I felt like I was doing the world a favor by writing such lengthy prose.

Well, I was wrong.

My purpose for writing in this manner was to impress others rather than myself.

I equate this scenario to watching wrestling. I’ve witnessed matches that were technically excellent, but seemed to lose something because they went too long. I’ve seen plenty of good matches go 30 minutes that would’ve been great had they gone half that length.

Brevity isn’t simply about writing shorter. It’s more about cutting out the superfluous details that bog down a story.

Remember that the key to writing a good story of any length is to know when to stop and trust that you’ve said everything that matters.

 

Writing

What I Dislike About Writing

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Several days ago, I wrote the post, What I Enjoy About Writing, to express everything I like about the wonderful craft of writing. Now it’s time to explore the flipside of the equation and discuss what I dislike about writing.

Here we go:

  1. Generating ideas- Contrary to popular belief, great ideas just don’t fall out of the sky. Even after brainstorming my list of ideas tend to look bland and uninspired. Therefore, I’ve heavily relied on using my 500 Writing Prompts book for ideas lately. I hope to return to my normal standard of creative story ideas in 2017.
  2. Pressure- Just having the courage to put pen to paper is half the battle. I find myself being distracted by the simplest things before I beginning to write. Whether it be checking my social media accounts or tidying up the kitchen, I can guarantee that something will emerge to take my focus off the task at hand. It’s all a form of coping with the pressure of writing. At times, the pressure is so great that I’ll literally want to do everything I can to hold it off.
  3. Going off the rails- This is my absolute worst nightmare as a writer. This is the moment where my writing morphs from a semi-coherent narrative into a rambling mess. I try to salvage it, but to no avail. It’s a double whammy. Not only do I come to the realization that my writing simply isn’t good enough, but I also have the added displeasure of knowing that I wasted hours of valuable time in trying to make the story work.

I’ll always take the good with the bad when it comes to writing. At the same time, I believe these to be common struggles that even the most skilled writers experience.

Feel free to share any of your writing horror stories in the comments section below. I’d love to hear them.